Raths | Ringforts

Raths, also known as ringforts, are one of the most common archaeological features in Ireland, dating back to the early medieval period. Raths were typical dwelling places of the nobles and “strong farmers” from around 500 to 1000 AD. These circular enclosures were primarily used as homesteads and farmsteads and were often located near important communication routes and resources.

Raths vary in size, with the smallest measuring just a few meters across and the largest up to 100 meters or more. They are defined by a circular earthen bank and outer ditch, with a gateway leading into the interior. The interior of the rath would have held wooden or wattle-and-daub buildings, and sometimes a souterrain, a type of underground storage structure.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that raths were used for a variety of purposes beyond just housing. They have produced evidence of metalworking, pottery production, and animal husbandry. This suggests that raths served as both residences and centers of economic activity for their communities.

Raths are an important source of information about early medieval society in Ireland, providing insight into the daily lives of the people who lived in them and the organization of society. For example, the distribution of raths across the landscape can tell us about patterns of land-use, settlement, and territorial control. The material remains recovered from raths, such as pottery and metal objects, can give us information about trade, exchange, and technological advancements.